By day, Chuck Robinson drives a school bus as a member of the recently organized Bolton Support Personnel Association. But after school on Wednesday, he was at the wheel of his boat, bringing colleagues to the Sagamore Resort on Lake George to protest anti-public school, anti-union cover girl Campbell Brown.
It was his first protest and rally.
"It was awesome," Robinson said. "It was amazing to see it by land, sea and air. People were yelling and chanting."
Robinson joined a flotilla of teachers, retirees, college faculty and School-Related Professionals. Their boats circled the island resort, where Brown was scheduled to speak later that night at the Business Council of New York State's annual dinner. Several hundred of their colleagues were on land, held back from crossing a bridge by police and Sagamore security. A plane trailing a banner — Campbell Brown #Bad4Schools — circled overhead.
Music teacher Jim Miller of Bolton Teachers Association, wearing a broad-rimmed hat for sun protection on the warm fall day, said he got on board with the protest "after reading Campbell Brown's web page, her tweets, her non-stop caving into billionaires, and putting down schools she knows nothing about."
Paul Weick, another BTA member aboard the same boat, is a social studies teacher who said he could use the event as a lesson for his students in "peaceful protest."
Brown, a former TV anchorwoman, founded the Partnership for Educational Justice with the help of deep-pocketed donors she refuses to name. The Partnership is helping parents sue the state over its tenure laws.
"Public schools are not for sale!" shouted teacher John Andrejkovics, a member of the Queensbury Faculty Association on a boat full of colleagues. "Keep Wall Street out!" He is the president of the Southern Adirondack League of Teachers, made up of 30 North Country local unions. Debbie Hanson, local president of the QFA, joined the loud chants from the boat.
Each time people from the bridge started a chant, hoisting a life-size, movable puppet of Brown, the boaters shouted in solidarity. When public education is under attack, what do we do? "Stand up, Fight back!"
"Miss Brown is MISrepresenting us!" clamored occupational therapist Tammy Boire, a member of the South Glens Falls TA . "Her whole program is parents and transparency, and she's not transparent! Not at all."
Bobbing alongside her were boaters and East Greenbush K-12 retirees David and Robin Hosley, now faculty at SUNY Albany and SUNY Potsdam, respectively, where they are members of the United University Professions. They joined the protest, Robin said, "Because we're still involved in education!"